Call for a New Approach to Israel’s African Refugee Crisis
WASHINGTON, D.C. – On the 75th anniversary of the failed Evian refugee conference, 300 Holocaust scholars, clergymen, Jewish leaders, and cultural luminaries have signed a declaration calling on the international community to assist in resolving Israel’s African refugee crisis.
The declaration was organized by The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, in cooperation with the Hebrew University-Hadassah Genocide Prevention Program, and the Tel Aviv-based Combat Genocide Association.
Israel has been at the center of international controversy over its handling of the tens of thousands of African refugees who have been arriving at its border.
The new “Evian Declaration,” as it is called, is timed to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the failed Evian refugee conference of July 1938. That U.S.-organized conference, held in France in 1938, was supposed to find places of refuge for Jews fleeing Nazi Germany, but the countries attending the assembly refused to open their doors to the refugees.
The declaration is also linked to a second conference held at Evian, in 1979, at which U.S. vice president Walter Mondale appealed for international cooperation to shelter hundreds of thousands of “boat people” fleeing Southeast Asia. Mondale based his appeal on the importance of not repeating the failure of 1938. His efforts inspired numerous countries to join the U.S. in admitting the Southeast Asian refugees.
Echoing Mondale, the Evian Declaration states: “We urge the international community to address this crisis in the spirit of the appeal made by U.S. Vice President Walter F. Mondale [in 1979, and] accept their responsibility to share the burden of resolving the African refugee crisis.” The declaration “acknowledges the Israeli public’s legitimate concern over expectations that Israel should shoulder all or most of the burden of caring for the new refugees,” while at the same time expressing hope “that Israel will play an appropriate role in such an effort alongside other nations that are committed to doing their fair share.”
The 300 signatories on the Evian Declaration include religious leaders, Holocaust and genocide scholars, and political and cultural leaders from Canada, Chile, France, Great Britain, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, South Africa, Sweden, and the United States:
–Leading Holocaust and genocide scholars, including Prof. David S. Wyman; Prof. Yehuda Bauer of Hebrew University and Yad Vashem; and Rabbi Dr. Yitz Greenberg, past chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council.
–Political figures such as Canadian parliament member (and former Justice Minister) Irwin Cotler and former U.S. Senator Rudy Boschwitz of Minnesota.
–Noted Jewish community figures, including Seymour D. Reich, former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center; and Prof. Judea Pearl, the UCLA scientist and founder of the Daniel Pearl Foundation.
–Christian leaders such as the Episcopal Bishop of Southeast Florida, Rev. Leopold Frade; Rev. John T. Pawlikowski of Catholic Theological Union; and Dr. Merelyn Bates-Mims, chair of the Cathedral Human Rights Institute.
–A wide range of Jewish religious leaders, including the president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Rabbi Dr. Dan Ehrenkrantz; the executive vice president of the Rabbinical Council of America, Rabbi Mark Dratch; the president of the Council of Young Israel Rabbis, Rabbi Chaim Wasserman; and Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple, in Los Angeles, named by Newsweek as the most influential rabbi in America.
–Cultural luminaries such as award-winning author Cynthia Ozick; noted Israeli novelist Joseph Agassi; novelist and human rights scholar Prof. Thane Rosenbaum; and prominent Israeli theater director Moti Sandak.
Wyman Institute director Dr. Rafael Medoff said: “The broad cross-section of distinguished individuals signing the Evian Declaration demonstrates the breadth of support for this effort.” He said the declaration will be sent to the governments of every member-state of the United Nations.
The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies
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